Tower Hamlets confirms opposition to 44-storey, 1500-home Docklands scheme

An East London council has agreed to oppose the granting of planning permission for a 44-storey development with up to 1,524 homes - over twice the quantum of housing proposed under an extant permission for the site.

A visualisation of the development. (Image: Westferry Development)
A visualisation of the development. (Image: Westferry Development)

Applicant Westferry Development lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate in March this year against the London Borough of Tower Hamlets' failure to determine its application, for the mixed-use redevelopment of the former Westferry Printworks site on the Isle of Dogs, within the statutory timescale.

The secretary of state has since directed he will determine the appeal.

At a meeting of the council’s strategic development committee last week, councillors resolved that, were the authority able to determine the application, it would have been refused.

Members raised concerns about the scheme’s visual impact, the impact of wind on the nearby Docklands Sailing Centre, the proposed amount of affordable housing, and the housing mix.

Permission was granted by the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in 2016 for a redevelopment of the site with a 118,738 square metre mixed-use scheme in four towers of up to 30 storeys and including 722 homes, shops, restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments, office and financial and professional services uses, community uses, and a secondary school.

Demolition of the printworks to construct a basement of the permitted scheme have since taken place, according to the council.

Westferry Development subsequently submitted plans in July last year for a revised 44-storey scheme including up to 1,524 homes and proposing addition of a fifth tower. Plans for a secondary school were excluded from the revised application.

Tower Hamlets Council planning officers noted that the Westferry Printworks site is allocated in the council’s Managing Development Document 2013 for a "comprehensive mixed use development" including housing, a secondary school, open space, and leisure uses.

They advised that the mix of uses proposed in the revised scheme accords with the site allocation but said the scheme conflicts with a development plan policy on the location of tall buildings.

Officers also raised concerns about the potential for an adverse effect on sailing conditions at the Millwall Outer Dock, home to the Docklands Sailing Centre, beyond those to be mitigated under the 2016 planning permission.

Councillors were advised that an offer of a 35 per cent affordable housing contribution had been withdrawn and the council had been advised that a revised viability assessment would be submitted offering a lower contribution.

Officers said: "At the time of writing, the appellant’s updated viability assessment has not been received; neither has a revised affordable housing offer nor details of consequential amendments to the housing tenure mix."

According to the committee report, the current mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, considered the revised application in December last year and "advised that the principle of sustainably increasing density to optimise housing and affordable housing supply is supported in strategic planning terms".

However, the mayor considered that the scheme does not comply with the current and emerging London plan for reasons including the absence of a strategy to compensate for loss of open park space, the addition of a fifth tower, and the impact on Tower Bridge.

Resolving to oppose the application, Tower Hamlets councillors also asked officers to explore concerns around transport, visual impact and heritage "with a view to identifying if they could form further reasons for refusal that could be defended".

Earlier this month, Tower Hamlets approved plans for the redevelopment of an 8.3-hectare former gas works site in east London to deliver up to 2,800 homes.


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